Vinny Corey: Working the Oriel

Monaghan boss Vinny Corey has had some challenges already this season but he’s looking forward to the start of another championship campaign

By Niall Gartland

VINNY Corey oversaw a memorable championship run in his first season in charge of the Monaghan footballers, but the early months of 2024 have been testing and they’ve had to operate without the services of their best ever goalkeeper, Rory Beggan, who is searching for a contract in the NFL.

But despite sustaining relegation from Division One in recent weeks, they’ll quietly fancy their chances of overcoming rivals Cavan in this weekend’s Ulster Championship encounter.

Gaelic Life caught up with Vinny for a chat at last week’s Ulster Championship launch event in Belfast as they get set to begin what could well turn out to be a convoluted championship journey.

It wasn’t the familiar feel-good finale to Monaghan’s league campaign this year, was it?

VC: It’s certainly different than last year but in general we can’t really have any complaints about the way the league went. It’s difficult every year to stay in Division One but more so this time around as the quality of teams was particularly high. When you see the way things are these days, teams are putting out their first team right from the start of the league. We want to use the league to get a consistent team going but for different reasons this year we didn’t get that. But we’ll take the positives out of it and the absences gave us a chance to blood newer players and they got a lot of game-time.

What’s the latest update with Rory Beggan, have you spoken to him much in the last while?

VC: He doesn’t know himself what the story is, it’s very much a waiting game…he kicked very well the last day and he was very happy with that. He’s put a lot of work into what he’s doing but he’s in a bit of a limbo at the moment so he has nothing new to report.

I’m sure Rory’s value was evident across the seven league games but at the same time Darren McDonnell has done well.

VC: Rory has been Monaghan’s number one goalkeeper for the best part of a decade and we haven’t blooded any other goalkeeper in that period. In fairness to Darren, it’s his first year and he has very big shoes to fill. Darren has improved game-on-game, he’s come into a high-pressurised situation and there’s the hype surrounding Rory in the background, so he’s done well and has improved a lot.

Do you feel sorry for Darren in a sense because goalkeepers are involved in 40-50 plays every game, so he’s learning his trade while coming up against teams that are so sophisticated in terms of setting up traps and closing off kick-outs. It’s such a giant leap for Darren.

VC: I understand that but it’s probably unrealistic to expect Darren to get to that level right away that the top three goalkeepers in the country are playing at, to be involved in open play. It’s unrealistic to expect that of someone who’s never played intercounty before. He can aspire to reach that level in year two or three but it’s unrealistic to expect him right away to do what Niall Morgan or Rory Beggan do.

You’re tight for time with only a fortnight separating your final league game and the start of the Ulster Championship, how do you manage that?

VC: It’s a championship game and you have to prepare accordingly. The key thing for us is trying to get boys fit and healthy and balance that with getting game-time into our players. It’s a tight turnaround – there was a time when there were eight weeks to prepare for your first championship game. There was breathing space, boys were back playing for their clubs, but that’s not there any more and it’s even worse when you’re in the preliminary round, but we have to deal with it as best we can.

People used to talk, in laymen’s terms, about the championship training block. That isn’t there any more so do you have to do some rather heavy training towards the latter end of the month.

VC: There’s a wee bit of that but I think it’s the case that most teams now and trying to build up a head of steam earlier in the year and then it’s about maintenance rather than doing another pre-season. I don’t think you can squeeze in another block of heavy training, it’s just too tight.

What did you think of the new format last year – it’s probably not dissimilar to the Super Eights you played in yourself?

VC: I thought it was exciting enough last year. It’s a condensed season off the back of it. I’m not saying that’s a good or a bad thing. There’s no breathing space at all between all those games so it does mean players are preparing for a lot of high intensity games in a very short space of time. At the same time, I thought our boys really embraced it and we built game-on-game, we found that as it went on, we got better and better.

Conor McManus was undecided about coming back for another year, did you have an influence on him deciding not to retire?

VC: We had a right few chats. He was undecided at the start of the year. I’m not sure how much influence the chats would have had, but I think for ‘Mansy’ it was always about whether the body could stand up to the rigours of county football for another year. Once he decided he was going to go down that route again, that was it and it was never a question about whether he wanted to play another year for Monaghan as such. It was more so about how well the body was holding up and he’s in good enough nick, thank God.

After the emotional disappointing of losing to Dublin last year, some people would have said that’s the natural end, so were you surprised he came back?

VC: I wouldn’t say I was surprised as it was not a case of he was sick of it or thought it was a good time to go – he would play on as long as the hip allowed it. I’m not surprised he stayed on especially when Darren Hughes and Karl O’Connell and long boys committed to another season.

Is it frustrating that you were hit with the two sucker punches of Rory Beggan and (AFL recruit) Karl Gallagher going away?

VC: It’s not something Monaghan has ever had to contend with before. Monaghan never had anyone going off to the AFL, for a long period everyone involved came back every year. It’s difficult for Monaghan to contend with these things but Karl’s not the first player to go to the AFL and he won’t be the last. These days we’re probably ripe for the picking, things are going to happen when you offer a lad training at almost a professional level when he’s an amateur. You’re given him the chance to play at a professional level and get paid for it, it’s going to be very tempting.

Is there anything the AFL can do to lessen the blow, be it financially compensating club or counties?

VC: I don’t know – it’s an amateur so it’s not as if we own the players, it’s not as if they’re contracted to us. It’s very much an individual choice for players, we have no say over amateur players’ lives. They do this supposedly as a part-time sport for themselves, I don’t think we can make demands of professional teams as long as we’re an amateur organisation.

Is it sustainable for teams like Monaghan to go through potentially four rounds of Ulster whereas Kerry will go through two rounds in Munster in an environment where everyone has to start off at base camp again?

VC: It’s hard to know. We have to give the format time. Listen, there’s no guarantee we’re even going to play four games in Ulster. we could lose in the preliminary round and have an eight-week lay off so who’s to know? Traditionally it’s always been tough to start off in the preliminary round in Ulster, you’re going to have a longer route and with the new condensed format there’s no doubt it’s going to make it even more difficult.

And what about the challenge of Cavan in Ulster, it’s only a few years ago that they beat you in the championship?

VC: It’s always a difficult game against Cavan. They’ve beaten us the last few times they’ve beaten us in the championship, we’re well aware of that. They arguably had a better league campaign than us this year, it’s going to be a difficult game. Derby games are always difficult and I don’t expect this one to be any different.

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW